OTTAWA -- Canada has done well to keep young people off the "path to radicalization," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Tuesday amid surprising revelations about the background of two disaffected Ontario men who reportedly played key roles in January's deadly terrorist siege in Algeria.
Canadian security agencies, with the help of religious groups, have successfully staged numerous interventions as part of "our containment strategy... on domestic radicalization," Kenney told a news conference in Vancouver.
His remarks followed a CBC News report that identified the two Canadians involved in January's deadly terrorist attack at an isolated Algerian gas plant: Ali Medlej and Xristos Katsiroubas, two high school friends from London, Ont.
Kenney, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and the RCMP would not comment directly on the report. But Kenney expounded on the growing threat of homegrown terrorism in Canada, Western Europe and the United States. Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service often get involved and prevent problems before they happen, he said.
"Frequently, for example, when information is obtained about perhaps a young Canadian who is on the path towards radicalization, often there's an intervention," he said.
"Often the police will go and visit his family or perhaps his spiritual leader and say this young person is going in the wrong direction. And there's an effort to make an early intervention."
The siege in Algeria killed at least 38 hostages and 29 militants, including Medlej and Katsiroubas. Two others from the London area travelled to Algeria with Medlej and Katsiroubas, CBC said, but it's not known if they were involved in the attack or if they're still alive.
In a conference call Tuesday from the United Arab Emirates, Baird was peppered with questions about the report, particularly about why the federal government had not been more forthcoming about the case.
"Our intelligence services, our law enforcement agencies have been doing some important work, and I think it's best if I refer you to them for further comment," Baird said.
The RCMP said its investigation into Canadian involvement in the attack continues but is refusing to comment further.
Muslim leaders at the mosque in London that was reportedly attended by Katsiroubas, a former Greek Orthodox member who converted to Islam, held a news conference Tuesday to distance their community from the attacks.
Munir El-Kassem said no one he has talked to in the community seems to know either man or their families. Their reported actions should not reflect on Islam nor on London, El-Kassem said.
If youth are searching for radical ideas they won't find them in the Muslim community in London, El-Kassem said, noting that misinformation about Islam is rampant on the Internet.
"We know ourselves and we know the people around us. We are very comfortable that this is a very peaceful community."
The four-day siege of the natural gas plant ended when the Algerian military stormed the complex.
-- The Canadian Press